by Omon-Julius Onabu
The Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has debunked insinuations in certain quarters that he has been treating the issue of Fulani herdsmen menace in the state with kid gloves, saying the fact that he was not playing to the gallery does not mean that his administration was not handling the issue with the seriousness it deserves.
Okowa observed that such misconceptions might not be unconnected to his well-known political style of never grandstanding on any critical national issues, especially with a sensitive security matter of this nature.
The governor, made these remarks while fielding questions from newsmen on yesterday at the quarterly media parley at the Government House, Asaba,
He noted that a lot had already been achieved and much was being achieved by his administration on the menace of herdsmen, which has been a major source of security concern across Delta State.
According to him, the issue of clashes between herdsmen and farmers was not peculiar to Delta State. He stressed that it was important that stakeholders, including traditional rulers, should always be conscious of the “technical” dimension to the issue, which is related to the seasonal migration of herdsmen from the northern parts of the country due to desert encroachment and deforestation.
The governor disclosed that: “A lot of arrests had been made. There is a lot being done. But a lot needs to be done. There is certainly a lot that has been done.”
Commenting on the recent agreement by the South-south Governors Forum to form a common security outfit, Okowa said that the decision was a collective one reached through a democratic process by the governors at a meeting in Asaba, which he presided as the chairman of the forum.
He explained that the regional security body being fashioned by the South-South leaders would not necessarily be fashioned after the Amotekun model of the South-west geopolitical zone.
According to him, the “South-south governors will collaborate with the security agencies for better security in our region through better community policing.”
He added that with the restarting the “BRACED Commission,” which has been crippled for about five years by poor funding, the governors of the South-south were united on the need to deplete the teeming population of unemployed youths that serves as a pool for the recruitment of persons for various criminal activities in the area.
Okowa also enjoined the people to brace up for the negative impact of the COVID-19 on the global economy. He stated that it would make a downward review of the 2020 Budget inevitable if the pandemic lingers on for up to three months or more.
According to him, a major global recession was staring the whole world in the face.
“The fact that the price of oil has already plummeted from about $65 per barrel to as low as $35 or even $33 per barrel as an aftermath of the outbreak of the new coronavirus meant that Delta, and indeed all the federating states and the Federal Government, must do a lot belt-tightening due to Nigeria’s overdependence on revenue from oil,” Okowa said.
He described the COVID-19 as “a huge and palpable threat,” which has made nonsense of this year’s budget because of its negative impact on international travels, industrial production in China and other industrialised countries and thereby causing a glut in the international oil market.
He, however, assured state government’s employees that his administration would endeavour to continue to pay salaries at the expense of awarding new contracts.
Okowa, however, would not admit or deny the speculation that he would be heading to the senate at the end of his tenure.
The governor said: “There are too many things in my head right now that I want to do. There are many things that I want to be remembered for, which I have not done yet. It’s less than a year into the four years of my second term. I still have about three years to work. So, it’s not just right, it’s out of place; please give…..that (question) should wait until later.”